National Association of Manufacturers recordsCreation: 1885-2021, undated
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is “the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all fifty states,” and “is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States.” Their records provide comprehensive documentation of the organization's programs and activities from its founding in 1895 to the present.
- Creation: 1885-2021, undated
- National Association of Manufacturers (U.S.) (Organization)
1100 Linear Feet
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is “the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all fifty states;” it is “the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States.” 
The formation of NAM stemmed from the Panic of 1893, a major depression that had far-reaching economic and political consequences, as well as a devastating effect on the era of growth and expansion known as the American Gilded Age. Prior to the panic, U.S. manufacturing was still emerging from its infancy. The United States had yet to fully shed its economic dependence on agriculture, and U.S. manufacturing could not match the industrial production of Great Britain and France. However, the Panic led to businesses and manufacturers being unable to open because they did not have the money to pay their workers or buy materials, bringing the growth of the prior two decades to a screeching halt. It was out of this depression that the call came for the formation of NAM.
On September 26, 1894, an influential southern trade paper, The Dixie, in a letter of appreciation to the Fay and Eagan Company of Cincinnati suggested it was an opportune time for the formation of a national association of manufacturers. On January 22, 1895, the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Manufacturers Association convened a meeting at the Oddfellows Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio. Over the next three days, 583 manufacturers and association executives from across the United States discussed the importance of increasing exports from U.S. manufacturing industries and promoting stronger foreign trade policies to overcome the economic depression. By the conclusion of the meeting, the delegates agreed that the organization would be non-political and non-partisan and its primary functions would be the promotion of foreign trade, including the exhibit of manufacturers’ products in all countries; the rehabilitation of the merchant marine; the promotion of the Nicaragua Canal (subsequently the route was altered to become the Panama Canal). The second function was the promotion and encouragement of manufacturing industry of all classes throughout the United States. Originally, NAM was an organization of associations (such as local boards of trade, chambers of commerce, industrial associations, and trade associations), individual manufacturers being only secondary or cooperating members. However, within a couple of years, in order to represent manufacturing interests adequately, membership support would need to be primarily based on individual manufacturers. On August 22, 1905, the National Associations of Manufacturers of the United States of America was incorporated under Article XI of the Membership Corporation Law of New York, going from a voluntary association to an incorporated association.
As a result of the anthracite coal strike in 1902, NAM also became interested in industrial relations. The country was experiencing a surge of labor union organizing. For instance, the American Federation of Labor more than tripled its membership in less than a decade. Many NAM member companies joined the open shop movement that was designed to counter organized labor. Over the next ten years, the major activity of the association centered on labor relations, and NAM presidents engaged in bitter disputes to uphold the principles of the open shop and to criticize the principles of labor union monopoly. Additionally, NAM was also focused on industrial safety as many state courts had begun to award injured workers large monetary settlements to compensate them for their injuries and disabilities. While encouraging safety in the workplace, NAM simultaneously lobbied state legislatures for uniform workmen’s compensation laws that would protect companies from costly, injury-related lawsuits. Additional early accomplishments of NAM on issues it championed or spearheaded include: the establishment of the Department of Commerce; establishment of a foreign trade bureau to assist individual manufacturers with their foreign trade operations; promotion of the Nicaraguan (subsequently the Panama) Canal; establishment of international warehouses, such as Caracas, Venezuela and Shanghai, China, and sending NAM representatives to nearly every foreign country; enactment of amendments to strengthen the Interstate Commerce Act and stabilization and regulation of interstate commerce; the rehabilitation of the merchant marines; the establishment of the parcel post system; foundation of the National Industrial Council (1907); establishment of the National Safety Council; championing for the National Industrial Conference Board; and spearheading the formation of the United States Chamber of Commerce (originally the National Council of Commerce).
Despite its accomplishments, NAM also faced challenges. In particular, the Mulhall investigation of 1913 resulted in unfavorable publicity for the organization. Martin Michael Mulhall (1856-1920), who had been a NAM lobbyist, accused his former employer of bribery, secret deals, and interference with elections. Mulhall sold his story to the New York World, claiming, among other things, that seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives were paid in return for legislative favors. A House special committee convened to investigate Mulhall’s claims. James Emery (1876-1955), NAM’s general counsel, stated that Mulhall had been fired by NAM in 1911 because he was unreliable, had a questionable personal life, and generally was a disreputable person with a proven record of lying. After a four-month investigation, the House panel found that many of Mulhall’s allegations were exaggerated, and six of the seven Representatives were exonerated. Despite the committee finding no substantiation for the charges and making no report of condemnation of NAM, its public reputation was damaged, and the investigation would color much of the association’s activities over the next twenty years.
World War I consumed most of NAM’s third decade (1915-1925). The organization focused on aid given to manufacturers for war production and release from war controls following victory.
From 1924 to 1928, NAM became especially active in combating a proposed child labor amendment to the Constitution. While NAM did not favor child labor, the organization opposed the need for a constitutional amendment because of a deep-rooted belief in the constitutional principles involved. Instead, NAM was in favor of federal legislation that would protect state laws prohibiting child labor and statewide bans on the importation of products produced by child labor in other states, a view criticized by others.
NAM, like much of the country, suffered deeply after the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. Membership and finances fell catastrophically. In 1932, Robert L. Lund (1875-1957) was elected as NAM president and started the rehabilitation process. However, Lund’s conservatism clashed with the era’s increasing liberalism. During the Depression, Lund and NAM found themselves regularly at odds with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (1882-1945) New Deal policies. Under Lund’s leadership, NAM became one of the leading business organizations to oppose the New Deal and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). NAM members strongly believed in an economy free of government intervention and Roosevelt’s New Deal policies often increased the government’s role in the country’s economics. NAM fought governmental control of industry measures in a variety of ways. Sometimes the organization sought to modify New Deal measures to dilute what they saw a government overreaches; other times the organization tried to half a policy entirely because of perceived threats to free-market principles. One of the significant achievements was the work of its Committee on the Study of Depressions which issued notable reports on the causes and cures of economic depressions.
During the mid-1930s NAM’s membership steadily grew. After 1933 NAM began to employ sophisticated public relations campaigns to counter the anti-business sentiment that had begun to build during the Depression decade. In 1934, NAM organized its National Industrial Information Council (NIIC) to coordinate its public relations activities. During World War II the NIIC worked to identify American business and industry with the war effort as it sought to counter organized labor’s appeals to patriotism. NAM’s Public Relations Advisory Committee turned to Hollywood, sponsoring films designed to promote the free enterprise system and workplace discipline. Over a thirteen-year period, NAM spent more than $15 million to inform the public about the vital role manufacturing played in the United States economy.
During the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, NAM continued to lobby federal officials and capitalized on favorable legislative policy. NAM worked for the repeal of the National Labor Relations Act, or the Wagner Act, which guaranteed employees the right to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take collective action such as strikes, as well as places a ban on company unions. NAM’s efforts were partly realized with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, which restricted the activities and power of labor unions. Also in 1948, the Marshall Plan — also known as the European Recovery Plan — opened and opportunity for NAM to play an important role in European post-war reconstruction. Working with the Anglo-American Productivity Councils it helped to train thousands of French, British, and Italian managers in American business practices. In 1959, NAM was credited with killing the Kennedy-Ives labor bill, which imposed reporting requirements on employers for expenditures on labor relations, and instead supported the Landrum-Griffin bill, which was subsequently enacted. The Landrum-Griffin bill, formally known as the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, regulated labor unions’ internal affairs and their officials’ relationships with employers and required certain financial transactions and administrative practices to be disclosed.
During the 1950s NAM’s public relations adapted to the new television medium. They launched the weekly fifteen-minute Industry on Parade series at a time when union membership was reaching an all-time high. Also during this period, NAM focused on economic education as it sought to counter what many business leaders identified as the collectivist tendencies of post-war liberalism (powerful government, high taxes, strong labor unions, and anti- big business sentiment). Its most successful economic education programs included: “How our Business System Operates,” and “Our American Heritage.” Another program of this sort was a clergy-industry relations program that sought to transmit a greater understanding of national issues through clergymen. NAM’s publication Dateline reached more than 30,000 clergymen.
The 1960s brought new issues to the forefront for NAM. In the report, “Water in Industry,” NAM demonstrated an early concern about water pollution. NAM also became the first industry group to study existing atomic energy legislation and its impact on the economy. NAM was particularly concerned with government competition with private enterprise in nuclear energy.
The late 1950s and 1960s saw a change within NAM. With a decline in membership, larger corporations took over, removing much of the ultraconservative leadership on the Board. These changes were made in part due to Werner P. Gullander (1908-2000), the first full-time president, hired in 1962. Gullander helped change the association’s image to one of positive, forward-looking action in all areas of operation and leading to an increase in membership and revenue.
During Gullander’s decade tenure, NAM helped organize Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) in 1963 to provide industry with a counterpart to labor’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), and the following year developed Solutions to Employment Problems (STEP) and Methods of Intellectual Development (MIND) — programs that provided experimental research to provide industry information on the urban affairs field.
When Gullander retired in 1973, E. Douglas Kenna (1924-2013) was named president. Kenna continued the work Gullander had begun to revamp NAM’s public image and impact. For better positioning, NAM moved its headquarters from New York City to Washington, D.C. The Public Affairs Department created a Legislative Response Network in 1974, that was organized by congressional districts and could produce timely constituent communications on major issues.
NAM placed a high priority on international economic affairs during the 1970s. The association played an instrumental role in a 1973 Soviet-American trade conference, which led the way for the U.S.-Soviet Trade and Economic Council (USTEC). NAM was also a catalyst in trade missions to Europe and the Middle East.
By the 1970s NAM was working closely with the Chamber of Commerce of the United States to shape public policy as the United States began to turn away from New Deal liberalism. Although the 1976 proposed merger between NAM and the Chamber of Commerce never took place, with the election of President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) in 1980 these two national business organizations played an increasingly important role in helping to shape a new relationship between business and the state.
In October 1979, NAM became the first major business association to press for a national industrial revitalization effort. A six-point “revitalization agenda” was released, designed to combat inflation and reinvigorate manufacturing and the economy. Three elements of NAM’s agenda — fiscal policy reforms including spending cuts, promotion of capital formation, and reduction of excessive government regulation — became the first three components of the Reagan economic program in 1981. During the Reagan administration many of NAM’s positions on labor-management relations, defense policy, international economic affairs, patent law, tax policy, federalism, civil rights, and research and development became part of the Republican agenda.
In reaction to a 1992 study that revealed an antiquated view of manufacturing among policymakers and their staff, NAM, under President Jerry Jasinowski (1939- ), established a long term, targeted, and multi-faceted Manufacturing Campaign to convey the singular importance of manufacturing to policymakers and media opinion leaders. The Bush Administration — at the suggestion of NAM — launched a comprehensive review of the critical role of manufacturing. Viewing the study as the predicate for an interagency effort to develop long-term policies conducive to a strong manufacturing economy, the Manufacturing Institute was established to provide information on modern industry.
During the 1990s, NAM increased its lobbying on international economic issues, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the certification of China as a most favored nation, and a national campaign to facilitate exports. NAM remains an active business advocate in the twenty-first century. Guided by the organization’s “2020 Vision,” NAM continues to innovate and disrupt an ever-changing national landscape in order to build industry, create progress and advance the values that make the United States exceptional: “free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.” 
Citations:  “About.” National Association of Manufacturers. Accessed April 3, 2017. http://www.nam.org/About/.  “About the NAM.” National Association of Manufacturers. Accessed May 27, 2020. https://www.nam.org/about/.
The collection is arranged into thirty-five series.
Scope and Content
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) records comprehensively document the organization’s programs and activities from its founding in 1895 into the twenty-first century. The collection contains correspondence, memos, newspaper clippings, meeting materials, press releases, files maintained by staff members, subject files, committee records, and publications, among other material. Early materials describe NAM’s origins, its positions on tariff protection, workmen’s compensation, the Panama Canal, and the organization of the Department of Commerce. Materials from the early twentieth century document the central role that NAM played in the open shop movement, its opposition to the New Deal and Wagner Act, and its support for the Taft-Hartley Act and states right-to-work laws outlawing closed shops.
Topics covered includes antitrust, capitalism, civil rights, Communism, disabilities, education, environment, equal opportunity, family leave, free enterprise, government spending, industrial relations, inflation, International Labor Organization, international trade, jobs, labor, lobbying, occupational safety, patents, plant closings, political education, pollution, postwar conversion, product liability, public relations, regulation, small manufacturers, strikes, takeovers, tariffs, taxes, trade agreements, unions, U.S. manufacturing, wages, and women. This is not, and is not intended to be, a comprehensive list of topics.
Researchers interested in the intersection of industry and public perception, government, labor, women, and the environment, as well as industry’s views since the early twentieth century would find these materials a useful resource. Printed materials have been transferred to Published Collections and can be found by searching the library catalog. Photographic and audiovisual materials have been transferred to Audiovisual and Digital Initiatives and can be found using this finding aid.
This collection is predominately arranged by department, with a few exceptions (detailed in the scope and content note for each series). The collection is arranged into thirty-five series: Central files; Chronological files; Corporate records; Records of presidents and chairmen; Advertising Department; Communications Department; Community Relations Department; Economic and Tax Department; Education Department; Environmental Quality and Conservation Department; Field Division; Government Finance Department; Government Regulation, Competition, and Small Manufacturing Department; Government Relations Department; Human Resource Policy Department; Industrial Environment Department; Industrial Relations Department; International Affairs Department; International Economic Affairs Department; Law Department; Legislative Analysis Department; Member Communications Department; Membership Department; Motion Picture Department; Open Shop Department; Public Affairs Department; Public Relations Department; Resources and Technology Department; Science and Technology Department; Small and Medium Manufacturers Department; Trade and Technology Department; Women’s Department; Committee records; Organizations; Vada Horsch's subject files.
In some cases, the records of a department or the papers of an individual are present in multiple series. This was unavoidable as the record keeping structure changed with NAM’s 1973 move from New York to Washington, DC, and as department names changed.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
Records subject to 25-year time seal. Litigators may not view the collection without approval.
Depositor retains copyright. Permission to copy, quote, and/or publish must be granted by the copyright holder.
Language of Materials
On Deposit from National Association of Manufacturers (U.S.).
National Association of Manufacturers photographs and audiovisual materials (accession 1973.418), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
National Association of Manufacturers centennial calendar (accession 1995.281), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Publications were transferred to the Published Collections Department and are now cataloged in Hagley’s online catalog. Contact the Published Collections Department for details.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- National Association of Manufacturers records
- Ashley Williams
- 2020, revised 2022
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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